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Work Is an Act of Charity for Young Filmmaking Group

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles Filmmakers Workshop is a recently formed collective of young screenwriters, directors and cinematographers. Hollywood has no shortage of men and women struggling to work in movie making, but the members of this Van Nuys-based group have distinguished themselves by pursuing their careers in a way that also helps local charities.

A short time ago, the workshop began offering its services to nonprofit organizations that need promotional films and educational videos. The workshop is willing to work for almost nothing, so it has been attracting charities with small production budgets.

“The charity benefits because they get their film done cheap,” said Richard Wilson, the workshop’s founder. “The members benefit because they get to learn by doing. Everybody wins.”

In the past 18 months, Wilson and his colleagues have produced a how-to-study tape for law students and a public service announcement for a group that restores Hollywood landmarks. The workshop is also working on films for a Santa Susana conservation association and a group that helps troubled children.

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“We’ve made attempts in the past to get films done,” said Jan Hinkston, founder of the Santa Susana Mountain Park Assn., who needed a short film about the mountains. “We couldn’t afford to pay all the personnel that was necessary.”

A 30-second public service announcement for a group like Hinkston’s will be done on a budget of $1,500. A five-minute film goes for $2,500, which is enough to cover costs and pay nominal amounts to the director and writer. Wilson and his workshop are happy to have the work.

A Connecticut native, Wilson had worked as a stage manager off-Broadway before coming to Los Angeles in 1984 to be a limousine driver for a Hollywood producer. He has since written four unsold scripts and is attempting to forge a directing career. In 1988, he got the idea to gather fellow filmmakers.

In the movie industry, “it’s very tough to do something without the help of other people,” Wilson said. “It helps to find people who are in the same boat.”

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Now in its second year, the workshop has 53 members. Each pays an annual $25 fee that goes to printing a monthly newsletter, which includes interviews with members and information on possible jobs. The group also publishes a directory listing the credits of its members.

Guy Wilson says he was a production assistant on such television shows as “Jake & the Fatman.” William Olsen’s experience includes work on a number of feature films.

At the other end of the spectrum, Lynda Tarryk says she was once Courtney Cox’s stand-in. Lydia Greenfield, a CSUN student, wants to be a publicist and lists her experience planning sorority events.

A few members already have careers in film or television but are looking to improve their station from, say, an assistant cameraman to director of photography. One member is a special-effects man who wants to direct and write. Other members recently graduated with film degrees from USC and UCLA.

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“It’s always difficult to find a foothold, a way to break into the business,” said Robert L. Goodman, 33, who recently graduated with a master’s degree from USC’s film school. “There’s a whole cross-section of people in the workshop. I’ve met people and gotten some work through those connections.”

Wilson runs the organization from his apartment on Van Nuys Boulevard. He is a young-looking man--who won’t tell his age--dressed in an Oxford shirt with an open collar. On the wall of his dining room is a lithograph of Walt Disney, one of the workshop’s role models. Another is Che Guevara.

“Disney for his sense of humanity,” Wilson says. “And Che Guevara because he wrote the book on guerrilla warfare. We’re guerrilla filmmakers.”

So far, Wilson said, former member Edgar Bravo--who recently landed a job directing a $250,000 film on AIDS for the Red Cross--is the workshop’s only success story. But the group has begun to attract attention. Warner Hollywood Studios recently donated amplifiers and film rewinders to the workshop, and is allowing members to film on the lot.

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“Our studio has always been a big supporter of being a good citizen,” said Bob Heiber, technical operations manager at the studio. “You have to give a lot of respect and kudos to the filmmakers’ workshop for helping different charity organizations.”

Respect and donations are exactly what Wilson envisioned when he started the charity project. But he insists workshop members are interested in more than personal aggrandizement.

“Anybody can go out and make a slasher movie,” Wilson said. “We want to go out and make films of value to the community.”


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